Marijuana-impaired driving spikes in Maryland, police say

WASHINGTON — As more states decriminalize marijuana, Maryland State Police are seeing a large jump in the number of weed-related impaired driving crashes and violations.

“We have marijuana seizures, I feel like, on a daily basis,” said trooper Samuel Jackson, in an interview with NBC Washington.

“With marijuana we’re looking for bloodshot red, glassy eyes, dilated pupils, drooping eyelids, slow exaggerated movements.”

The number of vehicle crashes investigated by state police that were linked to marijuana nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018, and the number of violations related to pot jumped nearly 40-percent.

Virginia and D.C. don’t keep data that distinguishes whether drivers were impaired by marijuana or alcohol, but D.C. police records show a nearly 10 percent increase in impaired driving arrests between 2017 and 2018.

The NBC report included information from Colorado, where marijuana was decriminalized in 2013.

“We saw about a 74 percent increase in fatal crashes, between 2013 and now,” said Aurora, Colorado police officer Kevin Deichsel. “And marijuana has been a part of that.”

Mary Gaston’s son was struck and killed by a driver who was under the influence of medicinal marijuana.

“In my view there’s a perception that marijuana does not impair you, like alcohol does,” Gaston said. “That’s not true — you are impaired.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told Congress it is working on ways to better measure impairment caused by marijuana, since portable breath tests and ignition interlock devices do not detect marijuana.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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